The Many Faces of THC

The Many Faces of THC

One of the biggest perks to being a journalist and writer in the cannabis industry is that I frequently get the opportunity to try new products — many before they hit the market. With a niche in cannabis technology, I often get the chance to use and evaluate new tech gadgets, like the tCheck, Gpen Connect, and even the new DAVINCI vaporizer.

As an experienced cannabis consumer living in a legal state, I also have sampled a broad range of products available in Colorado — mostly out of curiosity. I will seek out products with interesting new features, such as nanoformulations.

The Many Faces of THC

Kristina Etter

Kristina Etter


Through my career and involvement in the cannabis industry, I have had the opportunity to learn that not all forms of THC are created equal. So, let’s explore the variations and what consumers can expect from each of them.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most widely known and infamous cannabinoid because it is the compound in cannabis, creating the euphoria cannabis consumers love. However, what many don’t realize is that there are many forms of this exciting compound.

We can look at this cannabinoid as the raw, natural form of tetrahydrocannabinol. This cannabinoid is the acidic version of the compound and is found in the raw plant material. THCa, in this form, is non-psychoactive. Many hemp and cannabis advocates swear by consuming raw cannabis leaves or even juicing them, as THCa is purported to carry a wide range of health and wellness benefits.

This is the form of THC most everyone is familiar with because when you put flame to dry cannabis, the heat converts most of the THCa to Delta-9-THC. This conversion is referred to as ‘decarboxylation.’ Most home cannabis bakers use this process to increase their butter and oil potency by heating cannabis before they extract it. Most legal cannabis producers use Delta-9-THC to make various products like edibles and beverages.

Delta-9-THC binds with the CB1 receptors in our brains to create the iconic effects of cannabis. THC works very similar to anandamide, an endocannabinoid produced by the human body, that scientists call “The Bliss Molecule.”

This form of THC does not exist in the plant itself. Instead, when someone eats Delta-9-THC, enzymes produced by the liver metabolize the compound. This process changes Delta-9-THC to its more potent metabolite, 11-Hydroxy-THC.

Because it takes digestion, this causes a delayed effect from edible products, but this form of THC packs a punch when it does kick in. Often, this gets consumers in trouble. A THC overdose won’t kill you, but it can be terribly uncomfortable for the duration.

*Note: When you’ve overconsumed a THC edible — do NOT eat fatty, greasy foods. THC is a lipid, so it binds with the fat calories in your digestive system. Therefore, the more fat calories in your system, the more THC you will metabolize.

The THC Newcomers in the Cannabis and Hemp Industry

Update: My retraction of support for Delta 8 THC began in January of 2020, when I was hired to interview Josh Swider from Infinite CAL Labs and learned the devastating truth about these synthesized cannabinoids. The more I dug into the subject, the more I didn’t like what I was learning. Find out more about what I learned and why I feel betrayed by Delta-8 products.

This form of THC is a newcomer to the legal market and the dark horse of the hemp industry. Delta-8-THC is psychoactive, but the effect is much lighter than Delta-9-THC and creates less paranoia than its more infamous predecessor. Naturally, as with all cannabinoids, more research is necessary to determine the medical potential for the cannabinoid, but preliminary studies are promising.

For the record, I am not opposed to the cannabinoid itself – I am opposed to the way it’s created and misrepresented.

Delta-8-THC in the legal hemp industry presents an interesting conundrum. As the hemp legislation is written, all cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal. However, in hemp, Delta-8-THC is produced in tiny amounts. Therefore, many producers use a synthesis process to convert CBD to Delta-8-THC to produce enough of the cannabinoid for commercial purposes. And the DEA is beginning to question the legality of this process.

Another cannabinoid that is not present in the plant itself and requires laboratory processes to create, THC-O-Acetate, is still relatively difficult to find in the legal market. Last year, Honest Marijuana, a legal cannabis company here in Colorado, let me try their new products: a THC-O vape pen, pain cream, and infused honey.

Unlike Delta-8, THC-O is not produced naturally — it is a cannabinoid made from THC, using chemicals to alter the cannabinoid. THC-O is said to be about 3x as potent as THC and is supposed to create a more psychedelic, spiritual effect.

My experience wasn’t extraordinary with THC-O, but you can read all about it here. Long story short, THC-O felt more like a rave drug than a natural compound.

THC is Not the Big Bad Wolf

While THC has received a bad reputation based on outdated stereotypes and myths, THC can be consumed with responsibility. As science continues to uncover the mysteries in the various compounds in cannabis, expect to see more in terms of THC’s medicinal uses in all its forms.

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What My DNA Taught Me about Cannabis

What My DNA Taught Me about Cannabis

I had my first DNA test done more than a decade ago, shortly after my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother survived breast cancer years earlier, and my aunt died of multiple forms of cancer. Naturally, the frequent occurrence of cancer in the women within my family tree terrified me, so I asked my doctor for a BRCA test — a genetic test that could determine whether or not I was predisposed to breast cancer. At that time, genetics tests were on the cutting edge of medical technology, and I had to prove to my insurance company why I was worthy of the $3,000 analysis.

What My DNA Taught Me about Cannabis

Kristina Etter

Kristina Etter


Today, genetics tests average around $200 and are just a click away. Dozens of online companies offer DNA analysis for everything from ancestry information to specialized diets and even fitness programs. While these tests have always piqued my interest, I honestly had a bit of skepticism that kept me from ordering one.

However, I recently had the opportunity to put my skepticism to the test in an area I was already well-informed — cannabis and endocannabinoid function.

Setting the Stage: Cannabis Consumer Individuality

My husband and I swapped thirteen pharmaceutical prescriptions for cannabis several years ago. Taking a methodical approach to finding the products that worked best for each of us, we journaled every new product we tried and the effects we received from it.

Soon, we started to discover that despite taking the same doses, we often experienced very different effects. For me, certain strains caused racing thoughts, paranoia, and anxiety, but I learned that strains high in limonene with a strong citrus aroma helped tremendously. Meanwhile, my husband learned edibles help with pain better than smoking or vaping, and we learned he got a much different effect from edibles than I did.

As a former budtender, I saw the differences from client to client. Some consumers swore by topicals, while others swore off edibles after experiencing the adverse effects of over-consumption.

So, as a writer in the cannabis industry, I began to research why we experienced such profound differences in how these products affected us. My research led me into a rabbit hole of enzyme production, genetic variances, and drug metabolism. While everything I was learning made sense, I had no way to confirm my theories.

As a journalist and editor for a tech publication focused on cannabis and hemp innovation, I get dozens of pitches every day. But you cannot imagine my delight when the opportunity came up for me to do a podcast with EndoDNA, CEO, Len May

I immediately reached out to their PR firm, and said, “Hey, let’s make this super informative. Let’s do my DNA analysis and talk about the results on the show.”

Obviously, I realize I’m throwing my HIPPA rights out the window by putting my entire genetic makeup on the interwebs. Still, I felt like this was the only way to show my audience what a DNA analysis actually looks like and what type of information it can provide.

Additionally, because I am very well versed in how cannabis affects me personally, I felt I was the right candidate for validating the information provided by the report. I won’t lie, that little voice of skepticism was still lingering in the back of my mind, but this test would give me something tangible to compare my actual experiences too.

So, I waited patiently for my results and kept an open mind.

Skip back to 2009, although I tested negative for the BRCA gene, my doctor explained to me that this result didn’t mean I couldn’t get breast cancer, it just meant that I didn’t have an increased risk for the disease. So, I still try to be vigilant, take care of myself, and do my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Likewise, the DNA tests provided by EndoDNA and others are not meant to be taken as gospel. Instead, they are to be used kind of like the“Choose Your Adventure”books popular in the 1980s, to help you make more educated decisions about the sort of adventure you want.

For example, if you have the allele (genetic variation), which could make you prone to aggression with cannabis use, it doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely going to act like King Kong when you toke up. You could smoke your entire life and never trigger that gene, but the possibility is still there. Having your DNA analysis simply gives you a guidebook of areas you might want to take into consideration.

If you are aware that you have the genetic marker which makes you more prone to alcoholism, you might think more carefully about how much or how often you drink. Likewise, if you know you’re prone to adverse effects from THC, you might want to choose cannabis products that are THC-free or contain a higher ratio of CBD.

Making informed decisions means having all the information.

When I received my results, I was blown away by the detailed data the report provided.

When I received my results, I was blown away by the detailed data the report provided. Fourteen categories drilled down into 63 sub-categories, which look at hundreds of genetic markers. Additionally, the report flags any notable variants links in relevant research and explains the findings.

The report proved for me that I don’t produce enough the FAAH enzymes necessary to break down edibles, which is why they’ve never done much for me. The report also showed what I already know; I am predisposed to extreme feelings of anxiety or paranoia if I’m not careful, and that limonene is a vital terpene for improving depression.

The Wellness Plan breaks down exactly where the problem areas lie and even goes as far as to suggest formulas and beneficial terpenes — all of which lined up with what I had already learned through trial and error. I was shocked at the accuracy.

There’s no question; cannabis is not a drug that a doctor can simply hand to a patient and say, “Take two and call me in the morning,” which is probably what scares the professionals more than anything. However, science is catching up. Epigenetics and microbiology are deeply intertwined with cannabinoid research and endocannabinoid system function. I truly believe the days of mass-produced pharmaceuticals will soon be replaced with nano-formulations of specific compounds such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals.

For consumers, it pays to arm yourself with data. The more you know, the more aware you become, and sometimes a little awareness is all it takes to prevent a catastrophe.

Think of it like this; if you’re driving across the country and your GPS alerts you that there is construction ahead, you might choose to take a different route to avoid the hassle. This is a technology we can all appreciate. Likewise, if you have the data to help you avoid bumps in the road regarding your health, wouldn’t it pay to know?

Upload your raw DNA data now: EndoDNA Immune Function Report

Haven’t had your DNA analysis done? To save 20% use promo code: 

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